Paediatrican's holiday in
I took off from London in sunshine and
touched down in Tel Aviv in clouds and rain.
My aim was to spend my annual leave in
this place which from old is dear to many of us around the world: The Little
Town whose name evokes magic associations in each of us from the early
days of our childhood.
The welcome in Bethlehem
I received was nothing like what Mary and Joseph had to go through 2000
There is plenty of room in all inns in
As a paediatrician it was an
irresistible offer to be welcomed in the only Children's Hospital around
and given lovely food and accommodation for two weeks in exchange for a
bit of daily resuscitation training to the medical staff.
So I spent three hours every morning
among most motivated nurses and doctors (whose professional development
and possibilities to attend courses elsewhere, sadly, are severely
restricted by political and financial restraints), showing them the rules
and tricks of the trade in paediatric and neonatal emergency medicine and
in return was pampered with presents and invitations.
In the afternoon hours I wandered
through the streets of Bethlehem admiring the wonderful views around and
onto the Judean Mountains from this hilltop on which Bethlehem
lies. It's useless to try and explain the awe you do feel all the time
being in this place where Jesus was born.
The weather had now become warm and
sunny. I was fascinated by the vibrating light, the far blue sky, the
velvet-green olive trees and the soft light colours of the stone
everywhere, and by the many many smiles and welcomes from the local people
standing and waiting outside their deserted shops glad to see a
There were hardly any visitors like
myself around to buy all their beautiful and mostly hand crafted goods.
Instead, the streets were full of little
kids, many of them running after me with their hands held open, a truly
distressing and deplorable sight, not only for a paediatrician!
Some older ones who knew a bit of
English even addressed me with a heartbreaking smile, asking me if I did
not want to come and visit their father's shop.
"Do you want to be a
millionaire?" Well, I did there and then although I'm usually
immune to this desire. Every few metres I just wished I could go
inside and boost economy and trade which obviously are down on their knees
The reason for it is visible to the
naked eye everywhere, all around Bethlehem, and soon around the whole
of Palestine - a huge wall. I had chosen to spend my holidays in a giant
prison. You can't miss this several metres high grey wall that's being
built by Israel near the border on the Palestinian land to close the
When you're actually standing in front
of it, hearing from the local people that the land it stands on, their
personal property for generations, has been taken off them for the
construction of this wall, the impact is truly shocking. Their life is
being ruined and turned lifeless by it. I, a tourist from far away,
was able to pass through it and visit Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, but the
people who were born here and live in this town are locked in. Many
of the young people have never been to the places outside, have never seen
Jerusalem, have never seen the Mediterranean Sea,
Their hearts are full of desperation
over this permanent restriction, intimidation, and discrimination, and not
a single day passed in those two weeks where I was not listening to their
frustration, their sadness, and their hopelessness. Many now want to
leave their homeland because life has become unbearable. Those who can
afford it, join the exodus from this region.
For anyone who claims to have some
insight into the psychological forces that rule and drive our human
emotions, it is no wonder that this visible, stony, monster attracts the
Palestinian youths who already have got no hope for their future, to
gather and throw stones at it. Sure, this was also something I saw in my
Why do we not know back home about the
extent of oppression that's happening here?
I can only encourage
everybody: Go and see for yourself!
Printed with permission of
Catholic News 2007
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